How to carve letters in a pumpkin without a stencil

Written by paul cartmell Google
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How to carve letters in a pumpkin without a stencil
Lettering and more detailed designs are now being used for Halloween pumpkins. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The tradition of carving a face in a turnip or pumpkin can be traced back to Ireland and the story of Stingy Jack, the University of Illinois reports. Because of the tricks he played on the devil, Stingy Jack was denied entry to both heaven and hell; eventually, Jack was given a burning coal to light his way as he roamed the Earth. With intricate designs now used to decorate pumpkins stencils printed from the Internet are commonly used for detailed designs. Using a pen a message can be written and carved for a unique pumpkin design.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Pumpkin
  • Marker or ballpoint pen
  • Carving knife
  • Tea candle
  • Spoon or scooping tool
  • Newspapers
  • Bucket
  • Towels

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Select a pumpkin large enough to fit the message to be carved on it comfortably. Wash the pumpkin to remove any dirt and debris. Cut the top of the pumpkin around the stem to make a lid; push the carving saw through the top of the pumpkin at an angle of 45 degrees so the lid will not fall through to the base of the pumpkin when replaced on the top.

  2. 2

    Scoop the insides of the pumpkin out with a large spoon or ice cream scoop, leaving the walls of the pumpkin no thicker than 2.5 cm (one inch). Dry the exterior of the pumpkin with a towel. Draw the letters required on the front of the pumpkin. Draw the design on a piece of paper acting as a guide to refer to as the pumpkin is carved if no stencil is used.

  3. 3

    Insert the pointed end of a carving saw or large knife into the skin of the pumpkin and use a short cutting motion to remove the walls of the pumpkin following the letters needed for the required design. Angle the carving saw down at a 45 degree angle when cutting out the letters to remove more of the interior of the pumpkin walls and allow more light through the carved gaps.

  4. 4

    Remove any pieces of pumpkin that have fallen inside the Jack-o-lantern during the carving process. Wipe the front of the pumpkin again to remove juices and pieces of the pumpkin interior. Place a tea light inside the pumpkin; replace the lid on the pumpkin after lighting the candle.

Tips and warnings

  • If mistakes are made in carving the letters, you can use toothpicks to hold together pieces of pumpkin sliced through.
  • Without experience of freehand carving a pumpkin the use of large, simple lettering is the best option to gain experience and confidence.
  • Sharp knives and scissors should only be used by adults and older children.

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